World commercial aircraft fleet: forecast vs. actual

Some weeks ago I made a comparison about Airbus and Boeing aircraft market forecasts. Last week I published a couple of posts about the evolution in the forecasted aircraft average size and on the accuracy of these market forecasts. For this, I looked for old issues of Boeing Current Market Outlook from as back as 1990.

The next step then it was obvious, I compiled the following graphic showing with the data available information over a 40-year span on:

  • The evolution of world commercial aircraft fleet year by year (blue line) from 1995 to 2011,
  • The forecasted world aircraft fleets by Boeing CMO (red line) from 2000 to 2031 (with some gap years). For 2015 to 2031 the forecast was made 20 years ahead; for 2010-13 it was made 15 years ahead; for 2005-2008, 10 years ahead and for 2000-2003, 5 years ahead.
  • The published 20-year aircraft market forecast year by year.

World commercial aircraft fleet: forecast vs. actual (data source: Boeing CMO).

As you can fleets, forecasted fleets and market fleets have all been increasing year by year. The compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) for each one has been:

  • Actual fleet growth: 3.73% from 1995 to 2011 (2.88% from 2000 to 2011).
  • Forecasted fleet growth: 3.55% from 2000 to 2031 (3.69% from 2000 to 2011).
  • 20-year market forecast: 5.07% from 1992 to 2012 (3.43% from 2001 to 2012).

It is interesting to see that in those years when there is both figures for actuals and forecasted fleets the figures are close (-3.3% average deviation) and so is the trend, though forecasted fleet was lower at the beginning of that period (-7.2% in 2000) and grew at a higher rate until almost matching the numbers in 2011 (+1.2%).

Even though, the 20-year market forecasts have grown at a higher rate than fleets, it is mainly because the first data that I could retrieve come from the economic crisis of the beginning of the 1990’s, when Boeing trimmed down its forecasts. From the 2000’s the figures for market forecast have grown at a similar rate than those of fleets. And so will be the growth of forecasted fleet from 2011 to 2031: 3.5%.



  • 1990 CMO long-term market forecast is made for 15 years, not 20.
  • Forecast of fleet for the periods 2000-2003, 2005-2008 and 2010-2013 does not come from CMOs published 20 years before, but from 5, 10 and 15-year fleet forecasts included in the CMOs of 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999.
  • Boeing does not publish 5, 10 and 15-year fleet forecasts anymore.
  • It would be interesting to have a per-segment graphic, however there is not consistent data to produce it for the same time span. Boeing changed singe-aisle cut-off seat size from 1999-2000, in 1996-1997 and 2008 didn’t report the split within twin-aisle, in 2008 it also didn’t report the split within single-aisle.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence

2 responses to “World commercial aircraft fleet: forecast vs. actual

  1. Pingback: Odds and Ends: 20 year forecasts; Roll ‘em down; Canada v America & Romney « Leeham News and Comment

  2. Commercial aviation has weathered many downturns in the past. Yet recovery has followed quickly as the industry reliably returned to its long-term growth rate of approximately 5 percent per year. Despite uncertainties, 2011 passenger traffic rose 6 percent above 2010 levels. We expect this trend to continue over the next 20 years, with world passenger traffic growing 5 percent annually. Air cargo traffic has been moderating after a high period in 2010. Air cargo contracted by 2.4 percent in 2011. Expansion of emerging-market economies will, however, foster a growing need for fast, efficient transport of goods. We estimate that air cargo will grow 5.2 percent annually through 2031.

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